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Iowa Ranked Among Best Places to Travel in 2021

December 20, 2021

Although Iowa has long been known as a beloved Midwest travel destination, this year brought particularly notable bragging rights, including Forbes ranking Iowa among the best places to travel after COVID-19. This ranking along with a great increase in road trips this year, helped the state gain the hearts of many cross-country explorers looking for the perfect family getaway. What makes a trip to Iowa so special? Check out some of the best ranked attractions, restaurants and businesses that were noticed nationally.


Cities and Attractions:

Cedar Rapids Ranked as Best Bakery Scene in the U.S.

Out of all the cities providing sweet treats in the United States, Cedar Rapids is ranked No.1 in the country as having the best bakery scene. What makes Cedar Rapids the best contender for satisfying a sweet tooth? According to Livability, it’s Cedar Rapids’ vibrant Czech and Slovak communities which make some incredible central European pastries. If you feel a kolache calling your name, check out Sykora Bakery, The Kettel House or My Mom’s Bakery in nearby Ely.


Boone Named No. 7 Most Affordable Ski Town

If you are longing for a winter wonderland escape, you don’t have to travel far to experience the quaint charm of a ski town. Boone was recently ranked as one of the Ten Most Affordable Ski Towns by Realtor.com. Boone is not only known for its affordability but also its wide variety of outdoor recreation. Seven Oaks Recreation features 11 ski and snowboard runs along with snow tubing. Plus, you can relax after hitting the slopes by enjoying local craft beer on heated patio lounges.


Three Iowa Locations Land on Midwest Living’s Best of the Midwest Winners

Midwest Living, the travel magazine and site devoted to showcasing all the Midwest has to offer, included three Iowa destinations on their Best of the Midwest Winners for 2021. The list was made up of attractions, eateries, bars and breweries, coffee shops and much more. Decorah’s Toppling Goliath Brewing Company, Des Moines’ East Village and the Pappajohn Sculpture Park were mentioned.


Noteworthy Businesses:

Des Moines’ Surety Hotel Named One of Best New Hotels in the World

Located in the heart of downtown Des Moines, the Surety Hotel was named to Travel + Leisure’s 2021 It List of the Best New Hotels in the World. The list includes 73 of the world’s most impressive hotel openings in the past year.

“[The Surety Hotel’s] a prime example of the new sophistication that’s changing the complexion of this Midwest city, and the revival of the 1913 Beaux-Arts high-rise includes a range of opulent materials and decoration — there are rich hardwoods, leather and contemporary artwork, and the communal spaces and guest rooms feature mid-century-inspired details,” wrote Travel + Leisure Senior Style Editor Krissa Rossbund. “The overall look is clean and crisp, with a serene palette of neutrals and views of the surrounding urban landscape.” If that sounds like an ideal weekend getaway, book your stay here.


Fort Dodge Wine Won American Fine Wine Competition

It’s no secret that Iowa is known for its corn and soybean fields, but local vineyards are also being recognized for excellence. The American Fine Wine Competition collected wine samples from across the country and hosted nonprofit competitions to find the best small, independent wineries. Solider Creek Winery, a 10-acre family vineyard business in Fort Dodge, participated by entering their specialty rosé, Paragon Pink, and won best of show in the sweet category.

To taste this critically acclaimed wine, made from locally grown hand-harvested grapes, you can visit the Soldier Creek Winery tasting room on weekends.


Seven Iowa Beers Awarded at the Great American Beer Festival

The Brewers Association awarded six Iowa breweries medals of excellence at the 2021 Great American Beer Festival. The festival showcases over 4,000 beers from more than 800 breweries and is one of the largest beer festivals in the world. SingleSpeed Brewing in Cedar Falls won both gold and bronze for their Ring Around the Gose and Tip the Calf beers. Three other gold awards were awarded to Marto Brewing Co.’s Lavender Fields Forever, PIVO Brewery’s Decorah Nordic Gruit and Peace Tree Brewing Co.’s Get a Little Hazy.

The Disaster at Meux from Lion Bridge Brewing Co. won silver, and bronze was awarded to the Old Marathon Barleywine from Keg Creek Brewing Co. Ready to try these award-winning breweries? Be sure to use the free Iowa Wine and Beer Passport to redeem special discounts and win prizes.


Iowa Chocolate Shops Named to List of 11 Best in the Midwest

Travel Awaits, a site dedicated to travelers 50 years and up, included Van Veen Chocolates in Pella and Palmer’s Candy in Sioux City, as well as Lagomarcino’s Confections (which has locations in both Davenport, IA and Moline, IL) to its list of 11 Best Chocolate Shops in the Midwest.

Travel Awaits writer Tim Trudell mentioned Van Veen’s peanut butter brittle, meltaways and butter toffees, Palmer Candy’s Bing candy bar (nut-covered cherry nougat mounds), fudge and truffles, and Lagomarcino’s ice cream treats, malted balls, sea salt caramel bites and English toffees. Searching for more great chocolate shops? Iowa is home to plenty!


Des Moines Hot Sauce Company Won Lowe’s Small Business Award

Lola’s Hot Sauce is heating up! The Des Moines-based, Asian-American-inspired hot sauce company was born from a family recipe passed down by owner Taufeek Shah’s mother Lola. An Iowa favorite, Lola’s received a national boost thanks to home improvement retailer Lowe’s entrepreneur series, Making It … With Lowe’s.

Lowe’s invited entrepreneurs from around the country to pitch their most innovative products, resulting in more than 1,300 submissions. The series, hosted by Shark Tank’s Daymond John, featured a panel of five judges made up of Lowe’s executive team. Three entrepreneurs had their products chosen, and Shah made the cut.

Lola’s was awarded coveted store space and will be available online and in stores throughout the country, as well as a marketing support package, a mentoring package from John and a $5,000 Lowe’s Small Business Grant.

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